Weight Loss and The Biggest Loser Mentality

With all of the recent PR around the weight loss and weight gain struggle of former Biggest Loser contestants, it has sparked a lot of emotion for people who struggle with weight management. From my point of view, nothing about this is surprising. The way the show operates is a setup for the contestants to lose weight and then gain it right back. Being on a restrictive diet prepared by world class chefs and exercising 8 hours per day is simply not realistic or sustainable. In addition to that, weight loss occurs far too quickly to maintain and when we lose weight too quickly, our brains and bodies rebel. First and foremost, rapid weight loss lowers our metabolism. As we lose weight, our body fears starvation, so it will systematically lower our body processes to match the loss of nutrients. Over time and chronic dieting, this can create devastating consequences physically. In addition, a switch flips in our brain and we psychologically fear starvation. There have been well documented studies that show rapid weight loss and low calorie diets lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, and food obsession. This can send people into a trauma cycle that breeds binge eating. Our culture tends to want the quick fix. We have been conditioned to expect that we can take a pill and make the problem go away. We can’t. If that were true for weight loss, there wouldn’t be a new “fix” born every minute. We also wouldn’t see people gain back the weight they have lost. Which, by the way, most do plus about 10%. As one of my clients so aptly put it, we are dieting ourselves into obesity. On top of all of this, these quick fix weight loss shows or intensive retreat programs NEVER deal with the underlying emotional issues that contribute to overeating in the first place. Certainly, there may be an undiagnosed medical condition that leads to weight gain, but by and large, I see that it generally boils down to emotional eating. Unless you deal with this, you will be destined to stay stuck on this roller coaster long-term. I tend to see a lot of post bariatric surgery patients who thought that surgery would change their relationship with food. Sometimes it does, but generally it is short lived. All too often, someone comes to see me a year or two after surgery when they have started regaining weight and can’t seem to get a handle on their relationship with food. The moral of the story….slow and steady wins the race metabolically speaking and deal with your relationship with food the find long-term peace in this battle.

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Weber State University and a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Utah. She has been working in the mental health field since 2001.


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